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Open Access Research article

Caregiver awareness of reproductive health issues for women with intellectual disabilities

Lan-Ping Lin1, Pei-Ying Lin2, Shang-Wei Hsu3, Ching-Hui Loh45, Jin-Ding Lin12*, Chia-Im Lai6, Wu-Chien Chien2 and Fu-Gong Lin2

Author Affiliations

1 Graduate Institute of Life Sciences, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan

2 School of Public Health, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan

3 Graduate Institute of Healthcare Administration, Asia University, Taichung, Taiwan

4 Department of Family and Community Medicine, Tri-Service General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

5 Medical Affairs Bureau, Ministry of National Defense, Taipei, Taiwan

6 Office of Medical Service, Tri-Service General Hospital, National Defense Medical Center, Taipei, Taiwan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:59  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-59

Published: 28 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Limited attention has been paid to the issue of reproductive health as it affects women with intellectual disabilities, despite reproductive health being a vital issue in public health policy for women in the general population. This paper describes caregiver awareness of reproductive health issues relative to women with intellectual disabilities who are being cared for in welfare institutions in Taiwan.

Methods

The study employed a cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study which recruited 1,152 caregivers (response rate = 71.87%) from 32 registered disability welfare institutions in Taiwan. We classified their understanding/awareness of reproductive health issues into four domains: menstrual (1) and menopause (2) issues, sex education (3), and reproductive health services (4). Each domain had five associated yes/no questions and the total score for the four domains was out of a maximum of 20. Data were analyzed using SPSS 15.0 software.

Results

We found that most of the caregivers were familiar with matters concerning sex education, menopause, and reproductive health services, but they lacked adequate understanding of issues associated with menstruation in women with ID. Many aspects of reproductive health such as "menstrual pain", "age at menarche", "masturbation", "diet during perimenopause", and "publicly available reproductive health services" were issues in which caregivers lacked adequate knowledge and required further instruction. Logistic regression analysis revealed that female caregivers with a university degree, and those who had experience assisting with reproductive health care were more inclined to have higher reproductive health awareness scores than their counterparts.

Conclusions

This study highlights that service providers should offer appropriate reproductive health education to institutional caregivers, and that more attention be focused on the personal experiences and concerns of intellectually disabled women in future research.